by Alexander Swartwout
(An alternative editorial written for the Philadelphia Independent, #15, Spring 2004 - in the weeks after the City of San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and George W. Bush announced his support for a Constitutional amendment forbidding such unions; previously unpublished)
Complacency is this editor’s pet peeve. And so over the past three years, there is nothing so ulcerous as the impotent and disorganized opposition, in the face of the American Administration’s continuing assault on human decency and plain honesty. Those who have fancied themselves activists and agitators during this grim time in our history must concede that they have existed in a state of distracted outrage, every political reflex coming seemingly a nanosecond after their opponents had already made off with the goods. When the 2000 election went haywire, victory was only secured by the more vigilant faction; in the days after September 11, 2001, political momentum was only seized by the greedier princes; and even during the disputed sprint to senseless war, the dissenters’ disorganization and fundamental infirmity allowed the belligerent Mr. Bush and his Crusaders to go ahead with their psychotic plot, without even being hit with a pie. We may look upon the Administration with indifference or loathing, but to a citizen, we must look upon it as our own creation.
And I am thus pleased to report that complacency has been put to sleep, and the American people - and indeed, those of the entire world - have engaged, at last, in open revolt. When our grandchildren come to ask us about how power and good sense were seized back from the oligarchs of Crawford and Kennebunkport, we must remember to give credit where it is due the front line was manned (and womanned) by no-one less eminent than the worthies at the fore of the gay rights movement. There has surely been a significant amount of protest and dissent in the interim, but the first column to come out with its fists flying, to actually act out their coup, to engage tyranny with action, is the same-sex brigade.
The Lexington and Concord of this engagement was, unsurprisingly, San Francisco, but by now thousands of homosexual couples have been wedded from Massachusetts to Oregon, New York to California. Mr. Bush, as red-faced and irate as he can be, has retreated to the safety of his religious fundamentalism a position he will be hard-pressed to defend. By firing back at these tax-paying, vote-casting American citizens, he has become the Mullah Omar of Evangelical Christianity, and now a civil revolution is at hand. And nothing will drive his vengeful nature to a greater pitch of insanity than the very good prospect that his political death will come at the hands of the queers.
Meanwhile, he is besieged on other fronts. At last count, 270 separate municipalities across the United States have voted through resolutions denouncing the tyrannical excesses of the USA Patriot Act, including Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, and St. Louis to name just a few of those towns with good teams. Beyond this, three entire states have done the same (Alaska, Hawaii, and Vermont, with Arizona now poised to join them), formally and irreconcilably firing shots straight into the Administration’s bow. This is action; this is what makes it wonderful to be an American.
There isn’t much of a precedent for the sort of civil revolt now underway against Mr. Bush and his exposed nepotees. The radical right is closing ranks around him, but while they were cloistered in the dark theaters of Mel Gibson’s cinematic blood-fest, they lost the advantage of momentum. The fight, as was inevitable, has spread outside of their sphere of influence.
This has happened most evidently in Spain, where Mr. Bush’s closest Continental ally was defeated with a sort of sudden, democratic outburst that must surely make even the great puppeteer Karl Rove sweat (or sweat more). This was in the wake of Spain’s own September 11, the gruesome Islamist attack on thousands of rush-hour civilians, and the political tide turned when it was shown, unequivocally, that it was Islamist terrorism, and not the domestic sort. In a strange way, this hideous crime has robbed the Bush Administration of its own contingency plan: should Al Qaeda strike again, it will no longer play to the Republicans’ advantage on the issue of tough defense. The Spanish socialists’ overwhelming victory shows that the common people of the world have grown sophisticated enough to hold their leaders responsible for the monsters they allow to roam the earth. Al Qaeda has been made more powerful by the reckless belligerence of Mr. Bush and his allies than they ever could have been with only their own rock-and-string resources.
And at the other end of Europe, even NATO-worshipping Poland has begun to lash back. The president of that other member of the so-called Coalition of the Willing (make room in the annals of humiliating propaganda) has lately come out complaining that even he was “misled” by the White House dream-machine. Spain will be withdrawing its troops from the Iraqi quagmire, unless the UN is reinstituted as the mediator of such campaigns; and now we will see George Bush necessarily bowing to the concerns of Poland, which, it must be admitted, will not be a very dignified position among the Swing Vote constituency that still likes to trade jokes on those good people.
But perhaps the most heartwarming theater of operations in the whole noble insurgency is within America’s own military. 75,000 veterans, soldiers, and military families marched on Washington as far back as October, and lately Business Week has reported an unimpressive 36% approval of the President among the services. A still larger group marched from Dover Air Force Base to the White House, a path all-too blatantly not followed by the President himself, as he has yet to witness in person the arrival of one of his soldier’s corpses from overseas. As Mr. Bush now travels about from one $2,000-a-chicken breast fundraiser to another, he is now hounded by soldiers and families, registering their profound disgust with his inhumanity.
This is a disgust, it seems from here, to be long overdue. The military has been a bastion of Republicanism ever since WWII, at least, for no good reason other than Dwight Eisenhower. But George W. Bush’s Republican party has been the military’s worst enemy: he has slashed veteran’s benefits, voided all compensation for those soldiers who succumbed to Gulf War Syndrome (given to them by his own pa), dangerously overworked the armed forces for - as it has become starkly obvious his personal vendetta and the favors of his affluent friends, and coldly refused to honor the sacrifices they have made for his advancement. He has, as well, manipulated servicemen and -women for bald political advantages, and simultaneously used that advantage to ram through economic and educational policies that ensure a lifetime of struggle for those soldiers fortunate enough to survive the war. And while we’re at it, let’s not forget he was even so galling as to serve his soldiers a fake turkey for Thanksgiving, because it made a nice picture of him.
It is a beautiful picture of America united gays, soldiers, Espanophiles, kielbasa-eaters, pacifists, patriots, liberals and libertarians, States-Rightists and Hamiltonian federalists all in a line moving with strength against the single greatest threat to American democracy and plain Humanism since Lord Cornwallis. That threat, it has taken everyone some time to realize, is the current President of the United States. And anyone who has always wanted to be a part of America’s proud history is now invited to join the ranks. While Mr. Bush is being nominated by his clubmates inside Madison Square Garden in August, this new brave army of Americans will be celebrating the reintroduction of democracy and human values in the streets outside.